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What is scenery-chewing?

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Colin Dunn, Jan 26, 2005.

  1. Colin Dunn

    Colin Dunn Supporting Actor

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    In movie reviews, I sometimes see critics saying that actors "chew the scenery" or enjoy a bit of "scenery-chewing." But from seeing films I don't know exactly what they're talking about...

    So would someone care to tell me what exactly "scenery-chewing" is? Or how do I recognize "scenery-chewing" when it's going on???
     
  2. Patrick Sun

    Patrick Sun Studio Mogul

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    Ever see Al Pacino in "Scent of a Woman"? How about Dennis Hopper in "Blue Velvet"?
     
  3. Gary->dee

    Gary->dee Screenwriter

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    I could be wrong but from what I understand "scenery-chewing" or "chewing the scenery" is another way of saying a person is over-acting. I guess the idea being that the actor is so involved in their role that you can't focus on anything else except for their character. So the scenery or whatever the setting or environment is, is virtually devoured or chewed up by the actor in the process of acting because you only notice them.

    Jim Carrey in almost all of his roles comes to mind.
     
  4. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    The term refers to overacting or overly melodramatic acting. It originated in the theater but has migrated to movies.

    It's usually a criticism, but not always. Some parts work best when the actor goes over the top. I happen to think Pacino in Scent of a Woman is one of them, but opinions vary.


    Not the best example. It's such an odd role in such an odd movie that it's almost a separate category of acting. If Frank were played any less crazy, the film would lose something.

    In general, I think the term is overused. A lot of great actors have been accused of scenery-chewing (Pacino, Nicholson, Hopkins, even Olivier), and the accusation often says more about the viewer than the actor.

    M.
     
  5. Glenn Overholt

    Glenn Overholt Producer

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    Drat! I thought this was going to be about Godzilla!

    Glenn
     
  6. Joe Karlosi

    Joe Karlosi Producer

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    I actually like over-acting when it comes off as natural and not obvious and the situation calls for it. one of my favorite sayings is: "I'd rather have an actor chew the scenery than become a part of it".
     
  7. andrew markworthy

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    What do you mean - almost ? [​IMG]
     
  8. MatthewLouwrens

    MatthewLouwrens Producer

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    Andrew - Have you seen Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind? That's definity not scenery-chewing.
     
  9. Andy Sheets

    Andy Sheets Cinematographer

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    Nick Nolte in Hulk chewed the scenery. Literally.

    I just think of scenery-chewing as taking a flamboyant character and running with it. It's not quite the same thing as overacting, IMO.
     
  10. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    Yeah, I see it used that way more and more, though it wasn't the original meaning. Think of Tom Hanks in The LadyKillers (and I'm using that example because Hanks is best known for naturalness and understatement).

    M.
     
  11. Colin Jacobson

    Colin Jacobson Lead Actor

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    Hah - that's EXACTLY the one that came immediately to mind when I saw this thread! [​IMG]
     
  12. Bill Williams

    Bill Williams Screenwriter

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    And of course, lest we forget William Shatner in any of the "Star Trek" movies (and the Original Series) where he monopolizes the scenes from his co-stars.
     
  13. Steve Christou

    Steve Christou Long Member

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    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Batman villains love to chew the scenery, Jack Nicholson, Jack Palance, Danny De Vito, Tommy Lee Jones, Jim Carrey, Schwarzenegger and Uma Thurman take a bow. Hopefully there will be less chewing in this years Batman.[​IMG]
     
  14. Eric C D

    Eric C D Second Unit

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    I usually use "overacting" for times when I don't think it's good (IMO Pacino was "overacting" in Scent of a woman), but I usually use "scenery chewing" when I thought it was appropriate or entertaining. The first "scenery chewing" I thought of was George C. Scott in Dr. Strangelove (OK, most of the other performances too. [​IMG]) I think I heard that Kubrick basically had to fool Scott into that performance.

    Or here's another: Charles Durning in "Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. He was nominated for an Oscar for basically one scene in that movie.

    enjoy!
     
  15. Eric C D

    Eric C D Second Unit

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    [​IMG] (to both examples and hopes)
     
  16. Patrick Sun

    Patrick Sun Studio Mogul

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    After Hopper's turn in "Blue Velvet" I swore off of PABST! Blue Ribbon!
     
  17. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    Sounds like an effective piece of acting. [​IMG]

    M.
     
  18. Ernest Rister

    Ernest Rister Producer

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    After Hopper's turn in "Blue Velvet" I swore off of PABST! Blue Ribbon!

    Yes, but how do you feel about Heineken?
     
  19. Amy Mormino

    Amy Mormino Supporting Actor

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    Scenery-chewing is seen as overacting, but haven't you met people in real life who have overwhelming personalities? The actors could simply be reflecting reality.

    However, there are cases when an actor's presence is so strong that the whole film suffers. Daniel Day Lewis in Gangs of New York was highly praised, but his character was so powerful that he overwhelmed all the other actors. Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet was appropriate scenery chewing, as the whole movie was at a higher pitch of reality, so he fit in just fine.
     
  20. Mike Williams

    Mike Williams Screenwriter

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    JACK PALANCE was in a Batman movie???

    EDIT: NEVERMIND, I had forgotten his small role as Jack Nicholson's boss at the beginning of "Batman."
     

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